Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sitting Together at the State of the Union

Tonight, President Obama will deliver his State of the Union Address to the nation standing in front of Congress and the Supreme Court Justices (we think). As a symbolic sign of decreased rhetoric and bipartisanship after the Tucson shooting tragedy, some members of opposing parties of Congress have decided to break tradition and sit together.

I have one word for this gesture: bullshit.

This isn't something that transpired organically. What a story it would be if when walking into the chamber today, unbeknownst to anyone, members of Congress truly searched for what they claim are "friends on the other side of the aisle" and decided then and there to sit together. But that's not what's happening. This was something that was petitioned and members signed on to.

"I believe that members of both parties can symbolize our common citizenship and common interests by sitting together to hear the president's remarks, rather than divided across the aisle by party," [Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer] said in a statement Thursday.
One wonders whether their symbolism will continue during the address, when Democrats will undoubtedly stand and applaud during sections of the speech. Will the Republicans they're sitting next to do the same?

Will Congressman Paul Ryan's Republican rebuttal to the State of the Union be toned down in rhetoric and criticism? We'll find out tonight, but my guess is that Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's Tea Party address will lack such civility.

On a side note, while I praised Senator John McCain a few days back for his views on President Obama's address at Tucson, he couldn't even be bothered to truly find someone at odds with him to sit with, as his "date" tonight is reported to be Senator Joe Lieberman. Nothing like showing bipartisanship by choosing to sit with the senator who describes himself as an "Independent Democrat" and endorsed you in your failed 2008 presidential bid, Maverick.

ADDING... I prematurely published my post before making another point. The reason I'm not really thrilled with this symbolic seating gesture and frankly don't think it matters is because while we usually think of a "it's not what they say it's what they do" mantra when it comes to politicians, the reverse is true in this case.  It's not what they do, such as mixing up the seating arrangement to not appear so divided, but it's what they say, and what they will say and how they say it after the address that's important. Conservatives sitting next to liberals, Democrats sitting next to Republicans means absolutely nothing without taking that symbolism and applying it toward their everyday experiences while working in Congress. I just don't see that happening anytime soon because of who you sit next to for an hour out of the year at the State of the Union. I hope I'm wrong.

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